What Skiing Equipment Do You Need?

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Since I’m a ski instructor, I get asked all the time by students and friends who want to go skiing what equipment they will need to go have or bring with them. I’ll first ask them where they are going and when since the climate and temperature makes a big difference. You want to be prepared, that’s for sure.

Putting the specifics like location and climate aside, I thought I would go through each piece of skiing equipment and describe what it’s for, when you might need it and other information. This will be good for those who have never skied or those who haven’t gone for a while and are looking for a checklist of what to bring on a ski trip.

Skis. The most obvious thing is skis. You can either rent or buy. Renting is nice because you don’t have to lug that equipment around, you know it’s tuned and waxed already. Renting can also be cheaper if you don’t go skiing a lot. If you buy skis, you’ll benefit from saving money on rental if do you ski a lot, you will know your skis and be used to them and they may be in better shape than some of the rental skis out there, if you take good care of your skiing equipment.

skis-on-rackBindings. Bindings connect your skis and boots. They lock your foot into place and also let your foot go free if you happen to fall. They usually come with skis, so you don’t need to rent them separately. The ski technician will also set your bindings based on your height, weight, boot size and skiing ability. So don’t be weirded out when they ask for all that personal information. It’s not a date or anything. Bindings aren’t something you want to mess with yourself unless you know what you’re doing.

Ski Boots. Boots are probably the most important piece of skiing equipment. Some people may disagree with me, but this is my opinion because it’s the piece of equipment that’s really connected with your body and all of your body weight sits in your boots. Ski boots also help you balance and move. If you can throw money at just one piece of your ski equipment, it better be your boots. Great fitting and comfortable ski boots will keep you out on the snow longer, having more fun instead of complaining about sore feet in the bar.

Poles. Poles are kind of optional but most people like to use them. They really help you move around at the bottom of the hill or mountain. Besides that, poles can help you with balance and doing pole plants can help you with you rhythm for those perfect “S” turns. You want strong poles that are the right height for you. Turn it over and put your hands around them, above the basket. Are your arms at about a 90 degree angle? If so, then those are the right length of poles for you. Small children shouldn’t use poles because they’re a distraction and just get in their way, not helping them much.

Ski Jacket. You need a good ski jacket for sure. It needs to keep you warm, keep the snow and rain out, not let wind go through it and not restrict your movements. That sure is a lot to ask of a jacket but luckily ski jackets are made to do just that. Some additional features include things like vents, hoods, adjustable cuffs, pockets where you need them, a powder skirt and a draw cord – just to name a few things. Besides skis, jackets can cost a pretty penny but the money is worth it because, like good boots, a good ski jacket will keep you comfortable and out on the snow longer.

Ski Goggles. Goggles are an item that you need to have with you just in case it gets bad although many people use them on any trip down the ski runs. If it’s cold or snowy out, then goggles keep the snow and cold wind out of your eyes. You can get goggles with colored lenses for daytime skiing or else with uncolored or lightly colored (yellow / lemon) for good night vision. Some will even have swappable lenses so you can use them both day and night but I like having two separate pairs because changing lenses can be a hassle.

Skiing Helmet. More and more people are wearing helmets, which is good to see. Helmets are much cooler looking now than when they first came out. A good helmet has an adjustable band on the inside to get that good fit on your head. Helmets also can have vents that you can open and close (sometimes 2 separate zones). They should have a chin strap – which you need to use to be safe. Pretty much all helmets now have a strap in the back to help lock in your ski goggles. When you get goggles for a helmet, make sure the goggles have hinges in the left and right sides or are open, which makes for a perfect fit around a helmet.

skiersSki Socks. You need good socks. They should not be too thick but be just right. I really like the SmartWool socks with the extra padding on the bottom. They’re warm and comfortable. Find a good sock that you like and buy many pairs of it to get a consistent fit with your ski boots.

Ski Mask. Here’s another item that you want easy to pull out and put on if the weather takes a turn for the worst, which can actually sometimes be the best skiing if you get some nice powder coming down. So get a good mask so that you can enjoy the snow. I like the “gator” style ski mask which goes around your nose, mouth and neck. It works like a scarf. If you wear a helmet, find a good one that doesn’t mess with how your helmet and goggles fit. I usually have my mask in an inner pocket of my ski jacket since it’s pretty thin. It adds some extra warmth to my jacket when I’m not wearing it and some nice, extra warmth to my face when I do wear it!

Ski Gloves. Like socks, you need good ski gloves and most people get several pairs so that there’s always a dry pair around. What I like to get is the thin, inner glove and then find a good outer glove and wear both. Some more expensive gloves now have an inner layer that snaps out, which is basically the same thing. You want gloves that cover your wrists well so that there’s no gap between your ski jacket and your gloves. Also look for a pocket, usually on the top, that is made to put hand warmers into. It’s the little things, right?

womens-base-layer-smBase and Mid Layers. Sometimes it’s really hard to dress for skiing. You don’t want to be sweating to death and you definitely don’t want to be too cold either. There are many good materials out now for your base layer that work to keep the sweat away from your body – unlike cotton. Cotton keeps you warm but also soaks up sweat and makes you cold because it’s next to your body. So get some thin base layers that keep moisture away and then add on maybe 1-2 more mid-layers. The purpose of the mid-layers are to keep you warm. Some people use fleece or you can even use some nice, comfortable cotton layers here if you want. When you get inside, you want to make it easy to peel away a few layers right away so that you don’t get too hot while your inside. Ski pants with vents are great for that purpose.

Those are the main things that comprise the world of ski equipment. There are loads of other accessories, too, like scarves, cat crap, boot heaters, hand warmers and so on. There is no lack of ski accessories out there and some are really great, so check them out.

Again, be prepared when you go skiing and you’ll enjoy the day. If you can’t afford all the ski equipment listed here, don’t worry – that’s what friends are for. Borrow what you need to. Many people who ski a lot have extra jackets, gloves and maybe even skis and boots that you can borrow. Just be sure to return them in good condition and washed if you ever want to borrow ski equipment from them again!

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